Justice Minister Anna Richardson (standing at podium) presenting the year’s activities of her ministry to MPs on Monday morning.
PHILIPSBURG--The draft function books for all nine departments in the Justice Ministry will be handed over to the Committee of Civil Servants Unions (CCSU) by December 23, said Justice Minister Anna Richardson on Monday.
Richardson’s statements came during her year-end update to Parliament’s Justice Committee.
The function books for all Justice Ministry departments only started in early September, when government established a project group to fast-track the process. Only the function book for the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM had been worked on before this, said Richardson.
The job descriptions have been approved by all Justice Ministry department heads, and government accounting bureau SOAB submitted the draft report on the full-time equivalents (FTEs) for all functions to the project group on December 2, Richardson told the MPs.
CCSU will review the draft function books after they are submitted. It would normally be allowed six weeks to do this, but CCSU requested an extension in a letter to Richardson on December 9. Richardson granted the request, and CCSU now has a full 8 weeks to review the function books and submit its recommendations to the Justice Ministry.
The function books will then be sent to the Council of Advice, which is to render an advice within six weeks of submission. The function books will be enacted via National Decree, said Richardson.
The previous KPSM function book was illegal because it had been enacted in a ministerial decree, Richardson told MPs. This ministerial decree, which was signed by former Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever in early June 2019, formalised a new structure for police personnel and included function descriptions and salary scales.
Then-Justice Minister Egbert Doran asked the Council of Advice in December 2019 to render an advice on this ministerial decree. Richardson took up the position of Justice Minister in late March 2020.
After unionised Justice Ministry workers staged several protests in July, Richardson asked the Council of Advice for a timeline on the requested advice. According to Richardson, the Council said in September that the ministerial decree was “unlawful and incorrect” because the function books had to be enacted by National Decree.
“The process that is currently being undertaken is the correct and proper way in which the matter should have been handled from inception,” said Richardson.
Former Finance Minister and acting Justice Minister Perry Geerlings signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with three labour unions representing police officers in November 2019 to settle the accumulated back-pay caused by the unfinished KPSM function book.
A 50 per cent advance payment was given to police officers just before the January 2020 parliamentary election, with the remainder to be paid after a National Decree has been approved. Richardson said on Monday that the final payment will be subject to tax, unlike the advance payment.
MP Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper of United St. Maarten Party (US Party) asked Richardson how much it will cost the country to reimburse justice workers for the years’ worth of back-pay when the National Decree is approved.
Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel asked whether the 2019 ministerial degree was used as the basis to pay police officers in January. He also asked what effect it would have on the final payment, considering that the Council of Advice had declared this ministerial decree to be illegal.
The meeting was later postponed until further notice. When the meeting resumes, Richardson is to answer the questions posed by MPs.